A couple days ago my husband and I took all three kids to the wading pool. As we walked up to the pool I heard my son, P, tell my daughter, "Remember, don't go by the middle of the pool where the other kids are."
"Don't tell her that," I protested. "She can go where she wants and go by whoever she wants."
"But the other kids splash too much and it scares me!" P protested.
"Well, then you can play on your own," I said, "but you have to let E make her own friends."
Then E sidled up to P and said quietly, "Don't worry P, I'll stick with you."
This isn't the first time E has sacrificed playing with other kids in favor of playing with P. On the playground she refuses to play with her classmates in the mornings and afternoons because she insists on hanging out with her brother. Truth be told, he doesn't really have other friends and school is stressful for him, so he could probably use the support. However, I know it keeps her from socializing with kids her own age. She mentioned once that she didn't have any friends in her class because they wanted to play with her but not P, and when I said that she should make friends her own age she shrugged and said, "I'm fine with it."
I don't want her to sacrifice her own friendships to support P. Supporting P isn't her job. And yet, sometimes I wonder how much of a sacrifice it is. She and P make up amazing imaginary stories and games with complex rules, and she keeps up with him surprisingly well considering she's two years younger. Maybe she feels that she's more in step with him than she is with kids her own age.
I know that eventually they'll each find their own way. I suppose that in the meantime there are worse things than two siblings who stick with each other.